It is of course illegal to pay women less than men for the same work under current law. But that doesn’t mean the pay gap has gone away or that women have all the power they need to fight back against discrimination. Even after President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act into law, which gives women more time to file lawsuits against employers they suspect of discrimination, the wage gap has actually widened slightly. In 2007, before Ledbetter was law, it stood at 77.8 percent. Come 2010 women made just 77.4 cents to a man’s dollar.
This gap can’t just be explained by “personal decisions that women make to leave the workforce to raise children…and then to return to the workforce,” as Collins postulated. In fact, a couple of studies have found no other way to explain at least some of the gap than discrimination. A GAO report stripped out differences in work patterns (experience or time in the workforce among them), job tenure, industry, occupation, race, and marital status. While some of the gap can be attributed to those factors, it still found women make 80 percent of a man’s dollar. It had no choice but to theorize that the rest is at least partly due to pure discrimination. Another study by Francie Blau and Lawrence Kahn in 2007 found that after stripping out similar factors, women make 91 cents to the dollar. The researchers were also forced to chalk up the remaining gap to discrimination.